Tag Archives: Brooklyn Bridge

Bike and Roll Fall Hours

Cycling Events

September is here!  Starting September 2nd, our Fall operating hours will go in to effect.

fall

Open 7 Days a Week

Central Park at Columbus Circle West: 8AM – 10PM

Central Park at Columbus Circle South: 8AM – 10PM

Central Park at Tavern on the Green: 9AM – 7PM

Pier 84: 9AM – 7PM

Battery Park: 9AM – 7PM

 

Open Weekends ONLY 

Brooklyn Bridge Park: 11AM – 7PM

Riverside Park: 11AM – 7PM

Liberty State Park: 10AM – 5PM

 

East River Park and West Harlem Piers Park are CLOSED for the 2014 season.

 

New York City in the Fall is a beautiful time of year!  Hop on a bike and take in the beauty of Autumn in NYC!

gI_122510_BikeandRollLOGO

 

Summer Streets NYC (August 2nd, 9th, and 16th, 2014)

On three consecutive Saturdays in August, nearly seven miles of New York City’s streets are opened to the public to play, run, walk and bike.

Summer Streets is an annual celebration of New York City’s most valuable public space—our streets. Summer Streets provides space for healthy recreation and encourages New Yorkers to use more sustainable forms of transportation. In 2013, more than 300,000 people took advantage of the open streets.

Summer Streets is modeled on other events from around the world including Ciclovía in Bogotá, Colombia and the Paris Plage in France. The event is part bike tour, part walking tour, part block party—a great time for exercise, people watching, or just enjoying summer mornings. Passersby are weclome to participate in arts and crafts workshops, listen to musical performances, learn to salsa dance, eat healthy snacks, climb a 25′ climbing wall, soar through the sky on a 160′ zipline and explore a 179 years voice tunnel.

map_800w-1Held between 7:00 am to 1:00 pm, Summer Streets extends from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park, along Park Avenue and connecting streets, with easy access from all points in New York City, allowing participants to plan a trip as long or short as they wish. All activities at Summer Streets are free of charge, and designed for people of all ages and ability levels to share the streets respectfully.

Summer Streets is a project of the New York City Department of Transportation. With nearly 7 miles of open streets, 5 rest stops and a seven-block-long art installation in the Park Avenue Tunnel – there is plenty to explore at Summer Streets. And remember, everything at Summer Streets is free!

Bike and Roll New York City is a proud Local Programming Partner of Summer Streets. Even if you don’t have a bicycle of your own, get out and enjoy the festivities by renting a bike from any one of our numerous city-wide locations.

 

The New York City Waterfront, A World Class Bicycle Experience (Part One)

By Nicole Mylonas

I sat down with Darryll White, co-founder of Bike and Roll, to discuss the New York City Waterfront.  In this two-part interview, you will learn about the incredible access that the waterfront grants to many New York City icons, what a great day along the waterfront looks like, why the waterfront is an important part of the NYC experience and how bicycling plays an important role.

Q: What motivated you to focus on the New York City Waterfront as a bicycling destination?

My first motivating factor was the NYC Greenway, which created the opportunity to offer a new, outstanding and safe bicycle experience in New York City.  Since the Greenway primarily resides along the waterfront it is natural for us to make the waterfront an area of focus.  A car free path goes a long way in terms of safety and the perception of safety.

While safety is foremost, our product experience is also very important. When I owned the Bike and Roll operation in San Francisco, our premiere and most successful product revolved around biking the scenic waterfront, across the Golden Gate Bridge and returning by ferryboat.  In New York City, the waterfront greenway allows for bicyclists to connect iconic sites such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the 9/11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, Staten Island Ferry, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and more, with proximate water-transit along the way .  Much like in San Francisco, people in NYC can bike the waterfront, ride on a famous bridge and return by boat.

Mayor Bloomberg’s vision, PlaNYC30, also motivated me to focus on the New York City waterfront as a bicycling destination.  The plan articulated a vision to connect the five boroughs and specifically mentioned use of water transit and increased use of bicycles.  By aligning our plan with that of the administration we were able to work in sync with an existing city initiative.

Q: How has the waterfront greenway helped change the perception of biking in New York City?

In the early 1990’s there was no bike path to speak of outside of Central Park and New York City was perceived by many as a dangerous place to ride. The addition of the waterfront greenway created a safe and significant network of paths to ride and as they say, if you build it, they will come.

The bike path also runs though many beautiful waterfront parks, which serve as a great place for residents and visitors alike to relax and enjoy the greenery, open sky and waterfront views while connecting with many great waterfront destinations. Thus, the Greenway has been integral in creating access to the waterfront.

The importance of the Greenway for biking in New York City cannot be overstated!

Q: Describe a great day on the New York City Waterfront.

Imagine a bike ride along the Hudson River, on a car-free Greenway, providing access to diverse neighborhoods, awesome iconic attractions, waterfront dining and connections to water transit that allow bikes easy access to all 5 boroughs of NYC.  A great day for me would be to create my own combination adventure on the fly, stopping as I pleased and exploring new spots along the way.  When hungry or when feeling like a change of pace, getting off the bike to sit somewhere and watch the world go by is a great option as well. There are so many terrific pit stops along the way.

Some of my favorite destinations include the picnic areas and the Boat Basin in Riverside Park, the Frying Pan and the Intrepid Museum in Hudson River Park, the Ice Cream Factory and Grimaldis in DUMBO the various concessions and skyline vantage points in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the bike path loop and Governors Beach Club on Governors Island and of course, the wooden plank bike path that crosses above the cars on the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Ferry connections can be made all along the bike path and I enjoy very much adding a boat trip, as it gets me off my saddle for a bit and also provides another vantage point, along with access to Governors Island and the NJ shoreline. NY Water Taxi and East River Ferry provide excellent and convenient service along both the Hudson and East Rivers.  For additional water tours I enjoy Manhattan by Sail and the Circle Line tours – both uptown and downtown.

After listening to that amazing description of a great day on the New York City Waterfront, I’m ready to hop on my bike right now!  The freedom of being able to hop on and hop off of the bike to enjoy museums, restaurants and parks sounds perfect.  I’m looking forward to more information as we continue this discussion in the near future.

(Read part two of this interview.)

 

From Dani Simons’s Smart Marketing for Sustainable Streets

Using Hashtags to Build #Bike Community

Maybe I’ve been spending too much time in front of my computer this holiday season, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how lots of “next generation” bike commuters in New York are forging a useful and meaningful community via Twitter.

When I first started riding here, it seemed that every hardcore bike commuter I met (at the time, mostly older, most white, mostly men, mostly in spandex, who tended to go on and on and on at various community meetings or social occasions) read a listserv called e-bikes.

But e-bikes was often filled with cranky complainers and the tips and useful bits of information were few and far between. At that point getting answers on bike questions (such as, when is that new lane going to be installed, or when is that construction on the bridge going to be finished) was also much harder than it is today, so people turned to e-bikes for answers. And even if you had a “silly” newbie question like “How can I make sure my hair doesn’t look totally ridiculous when I arrive at work after biking 7 miles in a helmet?” you had to find an actual bike commuter (a rarer breed eight years ago), or risk putting that question out on e-bikes and being snarked at.

Today, all of those questions and more are being asked semi-anonymously through the #bikenyc hashtag, and many people are offering tips and encouragement using the same.

Consider this tweet (which was retweeted by several others) from @MikeLydon the other morning, the first brutally cold snap of this winter “Dear #bikenyc, you look beautiful all bundled up on the morning commute. Keep riding!”

A few other cities appear to be catching on and using a bike hashtag, I found a decent number of #bikeChi and #bikeLA tweets on a recent search.

As we saw this spring and summer in the Middle East, (and even earlier than that in Iran), Twitter and it’s hashtags can be a very powerful way to organize, or at the very least spread information through a diffuse community. Clay Shirky has written very eloquently about the political power of social media, if you happen to be more interested in this, than say, biking…

It’s worth advocacy organizations or even city governments promoting city bike hashtags. Twitter is a great way to distribute rapid bits of information (“Bridge closed for emergency repairs tonight” or “Careful for the big new pothole that just appeared on Maple Lane” or “Free bike lights being distributed this evening on Maple Lane”). And since the media increasingly monitors Twitter for tips and breaking news, important tweets are often rebroadcast outside of Twitter as well. Using a hashtag at the end of these tweets allows users to create a dedicated “search” for this information, almost like tuning their Twitter radio to your station if you need an old-school analogy.

Twitter hashtags are also a good way for communities of interest to share information and support each other. Even if you don’t know a bike commuter personally in New York (which now seems rather far-fetched), you can connect with hundreds online via #bikenyc. Sure, some are still snarky as hell, but many are friendly, or as friendly as New York City cyclists get anyway…at least you don’t have to look at any spandex. At least not until you go to one of those #bikenyc meetups. But even then I’ve been pleasant surprised to find that #bikenyc fashion has evolved quite a bit since I arrived nearly eight years ago.

Not that I’m the boss of this, but I’d recommend for cities that aren’t using a bike hashtag yet to pick a simple one, maybe just #bike + your city’s airport code, which would keep things short (important for Twitter) local and easy to remember (important for the overall usability/success).

That would give you #bikeBOS for Boston, #bikeMSP for Minneapolis St. Paul, #bikePDX for Portland, #bikeSFO for San Fran, etc…

If I missed any cities that are already making great use of a hashtag to build cycling community online, let me know. I’d be eager to take a look at some other examples and learn more about how others are using this technique.

Some basic do’s and don’t for hashtag use in case you’re new to Twitter and wanted some more tips. 

Biking the Brooklyn Bridge with Kids

by Amy Whitley, founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids

Last month, my family and I spent three busy days exploring New York City. We covered a lot of ground on foot, on subways, and in taxis, but never so much (and in as enjoyable a manner) than when we spent a full morning biking the Hudson River Greenway and Brooklyn Bridge with a fleet of bikes rented from New York City’s Bike and Roll.

Bike and Roll (which has eleven NYC locations) offers guided tours along the Greenway and Brooklyn Bridge daily, but families can also opt to pedal off on their own at any time, which works great with packed travel schedules. We choose to partner our self-guided rentals withNew York Water Taxi, experiencing their ‘Bike the Brooklyn Bridge, Water Taxi Back’ package, which includes rentals from Bike and Roll and vouchers for a water taxi ride from Brooklyn back to our point of origin (Pier 84).

A fabulous way to see a large amount of the city without worrying about navigation (and not getting tired feet!), we found this route to be much more relaxing than we’d thought it would be. The kids loved the bike riding, and three-fourths of the time, we were on bike and pedestrian-only paths paralleling the street and the Hudson River. During the stretches we did have to join traffic (in bike lanes), the route was well marked with green bike symbols and arrows.

The route took us south from Pier 84 (next to the Air and Space Museum) to Battery Park, at which point we retraced our last mile to Warren St, where we cut through the Financial District (just a few blocks in a bike lane) to the Brooklyn Bridge. (We could have shortened our route by not continuing to Battery Park, but the views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are well-worth the detour.) Once we’d crossed the Brooklyn Bridge (which was very cool, and again, easier to navigate than we’d thought), we followed signage to Fulton Ferry Park where we caught a water taxi back to Pier 84. The water taxi included a friendly guide pointing out the sights along the way, was not at all crowded, and afforded yet another great view of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and downtown Manhattan.

 

Water Taxi Tip: In addition to being a fun way to return your bikes at the end of your greenway and Brooklyn Bridge tour, water taxis are a great way to see the harbor. Their hop-on, hop-off passes are $25 and $15, and make for a great way to see the harbor and the Statue of Liberty up close.

About Amy Whitley

Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids, a family travel resource covering kid-friendly resorts, attractions, outdoor adventures, and all the pit stops you’ll need along the way. She also writes for a number of print and online travel publications, and is a family travel expert at Best Family Travel Advice. She lives in Oregon with her husband and three sons, where they enjoy backyard adventures when they’re not traveling.

The Future of NYC Biking

Cycles of urban renewal

(from The Eye – the magazine of the columbia daily spectator)

Kenneth Jackson recalls his first class bike trips in the 1970s with a certain fondness. “You and I and a dozen other people would go out on bikes and we’d ride around Manhattan. And we’d say, ‘This looks interesting! Let’s go down here!’” These were as much exploratory missions as they were teaching moments.

In recent years, things have changed. His now-famous midnight bike ride is attended by more than 200 students, has been covered by the Wall Street Journal, requires a police permit, and is accompanied by an ambulance. “It’s not spontaneous anymore. … It’s gotten bigger, it’s less fun, it’s more bureaucratic. I have to know which streets are one way, where there’s a bathroom, where people can get a hamburger.” Suddenly, Jackson’s bike ride is one of the hottest Thursday nights of the semester.

In much the same way, biking in New York City has exploded over the past ten years. More than 200,000 people now bike on a daily basis. Furthermore, almost 10,000 people commute by bike from Brooklyn to Manhattan over the Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn bridges on any given day. Down at City Hall, Mayor Bloomberg and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan are watching, and attempting to accommodate the growing two-wheeled masses. And in Morningside Heights, Columbia administrators and students increasingly point to biking as a choice mode of transportation. As Jackson notes, “There’s almost no downside [to] a bike.” And yet, as New York City is seeing, “bicycling requires change.”

Central Park: “A serviceable machine”

By now, I know the six-mile outer loop of Central Park by heart. I mentally prepare myself to climb the Three Sisters, a trio of steep hills in the north part of the park, before even leaving my building. Slow and steady wins the race, I’ve learned. My right hand shifts my gears automatically now. My first inhales after entering the park at 110th and Frederick Douglass are familiar, and I am comforted by the silence, interrupted only by the chatter of tourists and the whine of road bikes speeding past. The initial wafts of horse shit usually hit around 72nd Street. I weave in and out of the pedicabs, with their dinging bells and unpredictable paths. After navigating the tourist chaos that is south Central Park, I am rewarded with the sweeping reservoir views of the East 80s and 90s, before flying down the hills of the Harlem Meers. This was my first bike ride in New York, in spring 2010, and it remains my favorite.

In fact, this is where some of the first bike rides in Manhattan took place. The bicycle exploded across America in the late 19th century, especially in New York. The city’s parks department was integral to its success. By 1885, Brooklyn park officials developed rules for cyclists, primarily applicable in Prospect Park, and noted that “this machine … would be found very serviceable” for traveling “upon the park and parkways.” “Wheelmen” formed clubs across the city and Long Island, and were required to obtain badges to ride in parks.

In 1894, the country’s first bike path was completed on Ocean Parkway. The path’s speed limit was 12 miles per hour, a pace most modern-day Central Park racers would scoff at. Shortly thereafter, additional bike paths along the waterfronts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx were constructed. In 1936, under Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, the west drive of Central Park was finally opened to cyclists in order to establish a space for them outside of streets and park paths, which were deemed “dangerous.” Moses was integral in championing additional bike paths in parks across the city.

Interest in cycling as a recreational activity and competitive sport ebbed and flowed, then picked up speed again in the 1960 as the city began to close avenues and park drives to cars at certain hours to accommodate cyclists. Street bike lanes emerged in 1978 in Manhattan, connecting Central Park South to downtown. In the 1990s, the city government decided to recuperate the once-industrial western shore of Manhattan and develop a bike greenway.

Today the Hudson River Greenway stretches from Dyckman Street in Inwood to Battery Park, and is the most heavily used bikeway in the United States.
For most of the bicycle’s history, it has served as a purely recreational tool for New Yorkers. It’s only with the development of bike lanes and greenways, especially on inter-borough bridges, that cycling has become a practical means of transportation.

Williamsburg Bridge: “There’s strength in numbers”

Nearly every weekday, Laralyn Mowers commutes from Crown Heights to Manhattan over the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges. Mowers, who began commuting by bike in April, received her masters in human rights from Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the spring, and is a former employee of ModSquad Cycles at 114th and Frederick Douglass. “I can get anywhere in New York on my bike faster than on the subway. I have control over my life when I take my bike,” she explains. Even though she suffered three accidents this summer, she still believes commuting by bike is the best option in New York City.

Mowers is joined by more than 17,000 New Yorkers who cycle to work on an average weekday, many of whom come from Brooklyn to Manhattan via the bridges. Commuter cycling in New York City grew by 13 percent between 2009 and 2010. More than four times as many people commuted by bike in 2010 than in 1986. Every Manhattan avenue except 11th and 12th avenues now carries more than 1,000 cyclists a day.

Why are so many people commuting by bike? George Beane, Upper West Side resident, bike commuter and member of the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District, says it’s simple: bikes are the “fastest, cheapest, and most fun way to get around.” In many cases it’s easier to get around New York on bike, especially within Brooklyn, and between the east and west sides of Manhattan. New York’s population is rapidly growing in places like Hell’s Kitchen, Greenpoint, and Bushwick, where subway service is inconvenient and bus service is painfully slow.

Biking, by comparison, is fast. Each year, Transportation Alternatives, a bike activism organization, sponsors a morning commute race in which three people travel from their homes in Fort Greene to their offices in Union Square. A cyclist, a taxi passenger, and a subway passenger speed to work, coping with traffic and train delays along the way. For the past eight years, the cyclist has won.

The Department of Transportation, under Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan, is encouraging New Yorkers to bike to work, primarily by constructing new bike lanes, increasing bike parking inside and outside of office buildings, and developing a new city-wide bike share, which will launch next year. As Brent Tongco of Bike New York, a bicycle education and advocacy group, notes, “The DOT has done a tremendous job in building bicycle connectivity. Ten years ago I wouldn’t be able to find a bike lane for the life of me. Now they’re almost everywhere.”

Both Beane and Tongco add that rising concerns about health, efficiency, and cost motivate people to bike, too. For the price of a monthly MetroCard, you can buy a decent used bike to commute. Though Beane has been biking in the city for 45 years, he has noticed that the recent surge in cyclists is among “all ages and all incomes.” Tongco cites rising environmental awareness as motivation for many people to bike, even though New Yorkers’ carbon footprints are below the national average.

Ultimately, however, the commuter biking movement is building on itself. Beane notes that “people are following the lead of other cyclists. What works for some gets picked up by others.” Seeing other people biking safely, and talking about how much they enjoy it, empowers new cyclists. This cyclical effect makes biking safer for everyone—and safety is paramount. “There’s the strength in numbers idea. You won’t have more bicyclists without infrastructure improvements, and you won’t have those without more bicyclists. Janette Sadik-Khan is a visionary and she knows this is cyclical, and she wants to take the lead … so that the people come out of the woodwork and start biking,” Tongco says.

There are plenty of cyclists who have climbed out of the woodwork and are riding on the Williamsburg Bridge when I journey across it on a recent Sunday afternoon. I enter the bridge from the Manhattan side, exiting the trafficked chaos of Delancey Street. The climb up is always steeper than I remember. At first I’m speeding past the pedestrians in our semi-shared lane, then they’re passing me and I’ve lost my breath. Cyclists coming from the Brooklyn side fly by me on their sleek road bikes and European-style cruisers. As I leave Manhattan behind, the sound of traffic below me on the bridge dissipates, and the J train rumbles by. When I look up, I am surrounded by sweeping views of Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, and the East River. This, I remember, is why I started biking in New York—to feel connected to the city itself, to experience it as I move through it. Within minutes I reach the top and descend into the industrial, bike-laned quiet of south Williamsburg.

The DOT’s all-stops-out effort to increase biking in New York is not to be underestimated. As part of PlaNYC, the city’s sustainability initiative, the DOT constructed 200 bike-lane miles between 2006 and 2009. In the same period, it installed 3100 on-street bike racks. Commuter cycling grew 45 percent. By 2030, the city will have 1800 bike-lane miles. The DOT has also led innovation in cycling infrastructure. Not all bike lanes are created alike. Some are separate white lanes painted on the road, others are protected bike paths that utilize a lane of parked cars to separate vehicle and bike traffic. Many bike lanes are painted green to increase motorist and pedestrian awareness.

Bike parking, a seemingly small issue, has been another force for innovation within DOT bike policy. Under the Bicycle Access to Office Buildings law, passed in 2009, office building owners are required to accommodate cyclists who bike to work, if they so request. The DOT has grown the network of outdoor bike racks and developed a sheltered bike parking structure.

A lack of residential bike storage prohibits many people from buying and commuting by bike. For this and other reasons, the DOT has partnered with Alta Bicycle Share, a private company, to develop a city-wide bike share, which will launch next summer. For an annual fee of less than $100, city residents will have access to 10,000 bikes at 600 stations across Manhattan and Brooklyn, and potentially other boroughs. Modeled after similar programs found across the U.S. and Europe, the NYC Bike Share will allow people who either don’t have the physical space or desire to own a bike to move throughout the city on two wheels. It will also allow locals and tourists to rent sporadically, for recreational purposes. Once again, the DOT and Commissioner Sadik-Khan are driving the increase in cycling.

Columbus Avenue: Towards “complete streets”

Yet the uptick in ridership has not been met with city-wide acclaim.

“What are cyclists?” asks Jackson. “Are they vehicles like a car, or people like a person? They can’t fight with cars, but it’s not fair for them to fight with people either.” This dichotomy is at the heart of many New Yorkers’ discontent with the growth of bicycling. Deliverymen on tricked-out bikes frequently ride on sidewalks or on the wrong side of the street. Nearly every cyclist runs red lights (myself included). “Lots of people see bicyclists as menaces, and Janette Sadik-Khan as a Nazi,” Jackson says. It often seems that cyclists want all the rights of the road and none of the responsibilities. Drivers complain that cyclists riding in traffic are unpredictable and don’t signal. Pedestrians, accustomed to looking out for cars but not bikes, are caught off-guard.

Bike lanes and street redesigns have attempted to create a third space for cyclists, in line with their seemingly separate status. The Columbus Avenue redesign, between 96th and 77th streets, is a prime example. The bike lane lies on the east side of the street and is separated from traffic by a lane of parked cars. Like most street redesigns in New York City, the Columbus one was decided between the local community board, the DOT, and residents. In 2009, Community Board 7 requested that the DOT develop a plan to implement a protected bike lane on the Upper West Side. Mel Wymore, outgoing chair of CB7, says: “There was a lot of common support for a bike lane on the Upper West Side, especially on Columbus.” The lane was seen as the first step in “creating a network of viable lanes” in the neighborhood. In April 2010, the DOT responded with a complete street redesign plan for Columbus between 96th and 77th streets. From here, CB7 approved the plan with community support.

Construction was slated to start on the redesign in August 2010, when the community board was on a summer hiatus. The DOT, without CB7’s consent, changed several design elements before implementation, in what Wymore sees as a mix of an increase in available funds from the city and a “broader vision” for the avenue. The new plan more than quadrupled the number of pedestrian islands and reduced parking even more. “It would have been nice to have been involved,” Wymore states. “We didn’t have an opportunity to inform the community.” As a result, many people who supported the new bike lane as a temporary measure were “disconcerted by the permanence” of the new plan.

“There’s a difference between thinking about a bike lane and the actual implementation of it,” Wymore asserts. “The physicality [of the Columbus redesign] was different than what people thought.” As a result, he created a working group last fall comprised of various stakeholders, such as avenue businesses, concerned residents, local government officials, and cycling advocates. The group went block by block to assess problems with the redesign. The most outspoken critics were (and still are) residents in need of parking and business owners who rely on loading and unloading, both of which were significantly reduced by the redesign. 81st Street was also heavily hit by the changes and produced angry residents and business owners, some of whom have now come to firmly support the bike lane. There were concerns about the new pedestrian islands, which can be confusing for pedestrians themselves. “The bike lane was blamed for a lack of parking, and loading/unloading spaces, but it wasn’t the bike lane’s fault,” Wymore says.

The group produced a report with specific adjustments for the bike lane, such as signage and turning lane changes. Wymore credits the group’s success on the fact that “we were able to be data-driven and specific” in addressing the issues instead of relying on opinions and feelings. “I think the DOT is dedicated,” he notes. “People sometimes feel like the DOT does not have a robust public process before it moves forward, but its job is enormous.”

My ride down the Columbus lane is short and bumpy. As I enter on 96th Street, I immediately hit a series of storm drains and sewer covers that last the entire lane. It’s nice not having to worry about cabs cutting me off, but I nearly hit three pedestrians, who seem to think that the bike lane is actually made for casual strolls, chatting, or waiting to cross the street. At 81st Street, I run into the Sunday farmers market. While the street redesign stipulates specific hours for normal merchant deliveries, there’s a constant flow of movement between farmstands and trucks on Sundays, and I’m right in the middle of it. I do my best to dodge farmers carrying crates of produce until I finally arrive at 77th Street and rejoin traffic. Thanks, DOT and CB7, for building me a bike lane. I appreciate the sentiment. But next time, I might just ride with traffic instead.

I am reminded by Tila Duhaime of Upper West Side Streets Renaissance that the Columbus redesign is not just about me as a cyclist. Rather, it’s about making the street “more democratic” for all. The increased bike traffic on Columbus since the redesign is “speaking to a large unmet need” among cyclists for safe streets. Yet the new Columbus is also designed to “improve the streetscape generally” especially for pedestrians. The goal is to make the street safer for everyone. The DOT’s data from the first six months of the new Columbus show that the redesign has done just that. Total crashes are down 34 percent, and vehicular speeding has also dropped. Sidewalk bike ridership has dropped from a pre-redesign high of 9.3 percent to a current maximum of 2.8 percent. City Councilwoman Gale Brewer’s office, in a separate survey, found that 70 percent of locals surveyed believe the street redesign is “moving in the right direction.”

Beane also points to cyclists as just one element of establishing “complete streets.” He believes that the new Columbus is closer to achieving this goal than the old. Because the bike lanes went in with other, more controversial changes, such as decreased street parking, all of the subsequent complaints were associated with the bike lanes. He attributes this to “growing pains” and nothing more. “Merchants have gotten accustomed and deliveries are working out well now.” Like Duhaime, Beane points to the community task force established by Wymore as the driving force in resolving the problems that arose with the redesign.

Wymore believes that the Columbus redesign should be the first of many DOT initiatives to “engage the whole city around the idea of complete streets.” The Columbus changes have been a challenge and a shift for the community. “It’s difficult when you’re talking about change of behavior,” he notes. The issue is not just that bike lanes, street redesigns and the changing urban landscape require personal, everyday changes, but that “people keep being taken by surprise” when these changes arrive on their block.

Morningside: “A much bigger idea of what New York is”

By now, I know Broadway between 110th and 116th streets on two wheels just as well as I do on two feet. I’ve ridden these six blocks in the freezing cold and in mid-August sweat, coming back from a day trip to Brooklyn and from countless loops in Central Park, in the setting sun and at two in the morning.
I pass Westside and Deluxe on the uptown side and know that I am slowly, block-by-block, making my way home. I dodge delivery trucks and wave to friends before pulling over at the gates. On my way downtown, everything is a blur until the chaos of the 110th intersection. Only there do I begin to feel the anonymity and freedom of leaving Morningside Heights.

Stephanie Jurburg, a Columbia College senior, explains why biking is especially viable for college students: “It’s cheaper than the subway, for one,” she notes. And furthermore, “You get to see way more. … You know where you are.” Cycling “gives you a much bigger idea of what New York is.” Grasping that “bigger idea” is why many of us chose to attend Columbia in the first place.

It’s for these reasons that Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti and the Columbia EcoReps are developing a campus-wide bike share program, to hopefully launch in 2012. The project was born out of Columbia Public Safety’s mysterious “bike closet,” a collection of abandoned bikes on Columbia’s campus that public safety officers clipped. The issue was simple: the bikes were taking up valuable space in Low Library. A working group, which Kipp-Giusti was a part of, started examining the feasibility of turning the collection into a bike share last year. In the same way that the City’s bike share is not targeting the most avid cyclists, who already have their own bikes, the Columbia share would serve people who are interested in cycling but not yet committed bikers. “A bike share is a program for a people who happen to have a couple of hours and want to go for a bike ride,” she explains. She envisions students using the bikes to pick up groceries at the 72nd Street Trader Joe’s or taking a day trip to the Brooklyn Bridge. The program does not seek to revolutionize the way students get around the Morningside campus but rather “provide a choice to students who want to get out into the city more, which is one of the main purposes of being at a school like Columbia.”

Yet the University also must consider liability, rider education, and the actual mechanism of checking bikes in and out. Most pressing among the unresolved issues is who will have access to the share. Would the program be limited to students, or would faculty and staff be included as well? Currently the bike share committee within the EcoReps is working to garner student council support, and writing a strategic plan to bring before the administration. The challenge is developing the program so that it can last long after students on the committee graduate.

Beyond the bike closet, Public Safety has been the origin of the majority of the University’s bike-related initiatives. Ricardo “Ricky” Morales, crime prevention director, lists the host of efforts his office has made to support cyclists: installing more than 200 bike racks across the University’s campuses, creating a program to register bikes with the NYPD in case of theft, selling expensive but effective U-locks at cost, and distributing bike maps and information. Morales mentions, with special pride, his twice-annual “Ride your bike to campus” events, which offer University students and staff free bike tune-ups and the opportunity to register their bikes with the NYPD. At the August event, 61 bikes were registered and students came from as far as Brooklyn to participate. Because of Public Safety’s efforts to “constantly promote how to secure your bike,” bike theft has decreased in recent years, and Morales believes theft rates are “evening out.” In terms of additional initiatives, Morales asserts that “what we have done is good enough.” He believes that the University’s efforts are to increase cycling are “perfect.”

The Office of Environmental Stewardship and the Work/Life Office are also working to promote biking among faculty and staff, and to some degree, students. According to Nilda Mesa, associate vice president of environmental stewardship, her office tries to advertise Public Safety’s bike-related initiatives. Environmental Stewardship hasn’t conducted a formal survey on cycling in the University community, but Mesa has noticed “that the level of interest amongst both faculty/staff and students has increased” in recent years. She points to the growth of the city’s bike infrastructure under Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan as the cause. The number of bike parking options has increased across campus, and, apart from providing information and developing the bike share, Mesa seems to think that this is the best way to promote biking in the community. She notes that, while “we can always do more, New York City has come a long way over the last few years, and so have we.”

Yet there is a general consensus among students and faculty that the university does indeed need to do more. Several students involved in realizing the EcoReps bike share explain that the initiative is now primarily student-driven, even though it originated within the administration. “You could make the argument that this is not one of the most pressing issues” the University is facing, so “it gets put on the back burner,” Kipp-Giusti says. “I don’t think there is a lack of interest from an administrative standpoint, but I do think that other things have been prioritized.”

Meanwhile, Christia Mercer, associate professor of philosophy in Columbia College, believes the University needs to step up its efforts to make biking to campus a feasible option for faculty and staff. “It makes me happy to bike” from her home on 105th Street and Central Park West, “but in the past year it has become more of a chore” with the lack of bike parking on lower campus, she explains. Now that commuter cycling has become more popular, bike parking is even more difficult to come by, and Mercer doesn’t see carrying her bike up Low Steps to her office in Philosophy Hall as a viable option.

After her bike was stolen from a bike rack in front of the guardhouse at 116th and Amsterdam, Mercer reported the incident to Public Safety, who never followed up on her report. “This happens all the time,” Public Safety told her. “They never catch anyone.” This, along with the lack of parking, leads Mercer to believe that “Columbia hasn’t gotten the fact that the bike culture has changed,” even though University administrators argue otherwise. “They don’t make it easy for those of us who have bikes.”

Ultimately, increasing infrastructure for cyclists, whether at Columbia or in New York City as a whole, must originate with increased communication between cyclists and the people who design the systems they use. It has been thanks to outspoken cyclists such as Mercer and Kipp-Giusti that the University is being to act.

New York City: “A time of tremendous adjustment”

With so much progress made in the past ten years, is New York City on track to be the next Amsterdam? Certainly, every cyclist I spoke to for this story couldn’t help but dream.

Over the next five years, “cycling will become taken for granted as another form of transportation,” Beane asserts. He notes that, while “we are going through a time of tremendous adjustment,” cycling will become more integrated into daily life, and pedestrians and drivers will adjust. He envisions interconnected bike lanes throughout New York City, specifically the extension of the Columbus lane uptown, and connections in midtown.

Before traveling and biking through Europe, “I didn’t know that post-modern countries had adopted the bike,” Jurburg says. “New York is falling behind.” And yet she confirms that cycling is taking on here, and will continue to. With reason, she points to the fact that police are cracking down on cyclists as a sign that cycling is being integrated into the cityscape. “You don’t regulate something that’s insignificant.” Mowers, however, argues that the police “need to back off of cyclists.” Instead of “punishing the bikers” as cycling becomes more prevalent, she hopes to see “a legitimate plan for biking to become a real transportation alternative.”

“We want as many people to bike as possible, from all walks of life,” Tongco says. “We want to stress the importance of safety for complete living streets.”
For now, I hop on my bike outside my building on 114th Street and fly down Broadway with traffic. On two wheels, New York is mine.

On Two Wheels with Water as a Companion

 

(by Jane Margolies, New York Times)

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WHEN I told my local bicycle mechanic that I was thinking about circling the city by following the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, he shrugged off my reservations about the unfinished route, which I’d heard was still dicey in parts.

“It’s Manhattan,” he said. “It’s an island. What are you going to do, get lost?”
Yet there I was on a recent Sunday morning, turning right at East 63rd Street, only to find that I’d started down the car ramp onto the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.
Though the Greenway does encompass some city streets, mostly it snakes for more than 28 miles along rivers, under bridges and through parks. My companion for the ride was the recently released 2011 NYC Cycling Map (available atbike shops or by calling the city’s 311 information line), depicting the Greenway mostly as an enticing thick green line along much of the coast, with dotted lines indicating sections to come. (Full disclosure: I recently worked as a freelance editor on the city’s new plan for waterfront development; the Greenway was mapped out years earlier.)
Cycling the route is on the whole satisfying and at times exhilarating — a boon for bikers like me who get bored going round and round Central Park. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t bumps in the road.

WEST SIDE From the West 103rd Street entrance to Riverside Park, it was a quick trip down a hill and under an overpass to reach the Hudson River. There, signs for the NYC Greenway — racetrack-shaped and green, with a five-leafed ivy motif — greeted me.

The Department of City Planning included a route around Manhattan in its 1993 master plan for 350 miles of recreation and commuting paths in all five boroughs. In 2002 Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pledged to have the Manhattan loop built, and the city began stitching together existing pedestrian walkways, esplanades and city streets into a single route — in some areas paving connections and in others simply planting signs pointing the way.

Hanging a left so that I’d be circling Manhattan counterclockwise, I quickly reached a new segment. Cantilevered over the water, the path between West 90th and West 83rd Streets has a jaunty boardwalk feel. Before it was built, cyclists had to veer inland up a steep hill and reconnect near 79th Street. Now the path continues uninterrupted for more than 10 glorious miles close to the river, from the George Washington Bridge to the Battery.

Although I’d timed my departure to avoid the crowds later in the day, already cyclists — along with joggers, in-line skaters and stroller pushers — were out in force. At a cafe around West 70th Street, servers were opening table umbrellas for the day.

Here in Riverside Park South, the bike lane runs under the elevated West Side Highway. Still, cyclists have a good view of the rusted remains of the 69th Street Transfer Bridge, one of the relics from the city’s industrial past that you can see as you pedal. Out on the water a blue-and-white tugboat pushed a barge.

But keep your eyes on the path: Travelers streaming off a cruise ship rolled suitcases across the route at West 48th Street. Ten blocks later, a parked white bike, with back baskets overflowing with dried flowers, was a sobering memorial to a cyclist who was killed by a truck there in 2006.

Approaching Battery Park City after being separated from the water by basketball and tennis courts, I made a few turns near Stuyvesant High School and continued south, again right along the water. Hello, Statue of Liberty!

EAST SIDE When you get to Battery Park, the trick is figuring out which way the Greenway goes — now you see the signs for it, now you don’t. But once I was on the path bordering the East River, there were fewer cyclists than on the West Side, and no wonder. Although it’s thrilling to pass under the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, the Greenway here is a disjointed affair.

At East 35th Street the path heads inland, skirting the United Nations on busy First Avenue. Several blocks later I got caught up in the flow of traffic and found myself on that F. D. R. Drive ramp. My mistake was not spotting the pedestrian bridge over the highway, leading back to the Greenway.

The map says it’s a clear shot to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, at 125th Street. But repairs on the path in the East 70s meant that I had to tack back and forth across the F. D. R. Drive on pedestrian bridges. And for now the Greenway turns at 120th Street, so once again it is back onto city thoroughfares.

HARLEM AND THE HARLEM RIVER The Greenway continues west in Harlem — some blocks are lined with lovely old brownstones — then north on St. Nicholas Avenue. I crossed West 125th Street as noon church bells rang.

There’s no waterfront along this part of the Waterfront Greenway, but there’s plenty of greenery along St. Nicholas Park. Still, when I finally reached the Harlem River, after riding along Edgecombe Avenue and crossing over Harlem River Drive, it felt good to be back by the water again.

The view along this least-traveled part of the path isn’t fetching: high-rises and highway on the Bronx side. But fishermen with propped-up rods give this area a homey feel, while rowing crews gliding by add a sporty vibe. And because there’s practically no one else around, you can finally cut loose.

In fact, this area was called the Harlem River Speedway at the beginning of the 20th century, a straightaway for horse and carriage racing. Today cherry and crabapple trees beautify the West 180s. The yellow and green Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse occupies a pier at the tiny Swindler Cove Park (at Dyckman Street and 10th Avenue, in Inwood), with its winding paths and tidy rows of potatoes, lettuce and fava beans tended by students at the school next door.

DYCKMAN STREET CONNECTION This nerve-racking stretch of storefronts and double-parked cars connects the Greenway on the East Side with the trail along the Hudson. Eudes Espino, co-manager of Tread Bike Shop on Dyckman Street, said that at least once a day a cyclist wandered in to ask how to get back onto the Greenway. By the end of the year, work will have begun on a ramp to the Hudson River part of the path, according to the Parks Department. For now, head up Riverside Drive, then lug your bike up stairs to reach the path along the Henry Hudson Parkway.

GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE AREA To your right, the Hudson River is a silvery ribbon far below, glinting through the trees. At Inspiration Point, a 1925 overlook modeled on a Greek temple, cyclists stop and gaze at the George Washington Bridge. Soon you’re swooping down to the foot of the bridge, with the Little Red Lighthouse tucked at its feet. From here to Riverbank State Park, the Greenway runs through what feels like a big block party on weekends. Volleyball nets are unfurled. Barbecues sizzle. The scene is more pastoral along Cherry Walk, from West 125th to West 100th streets, where the path weaves between trees that were beautifully in bloom for me.

Nearing West 100th Street, a cyclist in front of me swerved to avoid broken glass. I did too. But several yards later, at the exact spot where I’d started my journey four and a half hours earlier, Dr. Edward Fishkin sat on a patch of grass next to his red Cannondale bike, expertly fixing a flat.

The medical director of Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center and a cyclist for 25 years, Dr. Fishkin bikes up to 250 miles a week, and the occasional flat just comes with the territory. He rarely experiences flats on the Greenway, however, Dr. Fishkin said, adding, “Compared to what riding was like in the city 20 years ago, this is phenomenal.”

Riding where there are no cars . . . in NYC

Stopping by the Intrepid Museum while riding along the traffic-free Hudson River Greenway

Biking in New York City may strike the uninitiated as a battle involving taxicabs, delivery trucks, and lots of pedestrians.  Let me fill you in on a little secret:  it’s not.

New York City offers incredible bike rides along famous waterways to some of the most gorgeous parks imaginable.  Cars?  No, these are traffic-free greenways.  Pedestrians?  No, they have their own designated walkways.

You can ride traffic-free along the Hudson River on the Hudson River Greenway from the southern tip of Manhattan at Battery Park all the way to the northern end at Inwood Park.  Along the way you’ll see Governors Island, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty; you’ll ride past piers with giant cruise ships and boat marinas filled with yachts; you’ll see tennis courts, picnic areas, basketball courts, and playgrounds; rest on a lawn, under a gazebo, by a sculpture garden; you’ll cruise by an aircraft carrier and a submarine;  you’ll even pass through cool, green woods and cruise by a little beach.  You’ll ride under the majestic George Washington Bridge.

On the other side of Manhattan, you can ride down the East River Esplanade, under the Williamsburg Bridge and south to the Manhattan Bridge where you cross over into Brooklyn and Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Brooklyn Bridge Park is a green gem that extends from the Manhattan Bridge past the Brooklyn Bridge with a bike path that stretches all the way along the Brooklyn side of New York Harbor to Sunset Park.  DUMBO (an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge) is one of New York’s newest neighborhoods and is full of art galleries and restaurants and fascinating renovations of old industrial buildings.  Many streets are still cobble-stoned.

When you’re done exploring the park and its surroundings, it’s easy to cross back to Manhattan on the Brooklyn Bridge.  I always think that the view from the Bridge heading west back to the city is amazing.  The skyscrapers loom up as you approach.  Very dramatic.  And, again, on the Manhattan side, there’s a bikepath that takes you south along the East River and links you up again with the Hudson River Greenway.

And we haven’t even talked about biking Central Park.  Most of its roads are closed to traffic throughout the day.  That’s another story.

Exploring New York City by bike and without cars?  It’s easy.  Bike and Roll NYC’s 11 locations let you pick up a bike wherever you want to start – in Battery Park, at Pier 84, or at West Harlem Piers on the Hudson River Greenway, in East River Park on the esplanade, or start out in Brooklyn at Bike and Roll NYC’s location in Brooklyn Bridge Park, just to name a few.

When we do blog about the joys of exploring Central Park by bike, we’ll mention our two locations there.

 

 

The City and Bike: Rubber Meets Road

by Jason Gay, Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2011
It is now summer 2011 and have you noticed a change? New York City isn’t freaking out so hard about bicycling.

Spring was a little shrill and embarrassing. There were crazed media furies about bike lanes, non-stop reports of police crackdowns, hyperbolic worries that the city was transforming into an effete Euro village. If we didn’t defend our streets, the cyclists would overtake Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan would open a leg-shaving station in Union Square.

One day you’d walk down to the harbor and see the Statue of Liberty sausaged into tight shorts, sipping a Stumptown espresso and thumbing through Velonews.
But then a funny thing occurred. It got warmer, more people started riding, and the mania was eclipsed by reality.

That’s the beauty of a bike, a simple machine with two wheels and zero ideology. When you can turn a pedal and feel safe, it’s fun and makes sense.

And anyone can ride. There have been cheesy distortions of cycling as a trendy, elite activity—to link bike paths to ongoing gentrification, and claim the city is catering to a hipster fringe.
You want to see what a fraud that argument is? Get on a bike and ride. For every Spandexed obsessive tucked on a $3,000 carbon fiber frame you’ll see 100 people of every imaginable background just trying to get to work, do their job, have fun with their kids, safely spin from A to B.

Bikes are New York fringe? Email your friends. Ask how many of them own bikes. Then ask how many of them own cars. If more of them say they own cars, look out the window. You live in Connecticut.
This is not to say there aren’t problems. Safety is still a priority. Many places in the city continue to need pathways and better solutions. A ride through midtown still feels like Car-mageddon. The West Side Bike path on a weekend is a free-for-all. The Brooklyn Bridge is tourist madness—always take the saner Manhattan, if you can.

And cyclists can’t be exempt from criticism. A bike rider in New York City has a responsibility to be not just an advocate but an ambassador. There’s nothing worse than a haughty biker who thinks the rules don’t apply to him or her.

Actually there is something worse: a haughty biker without a helmet blowing a whistle, yelling out of the corner of his or her mouth for people to get out of the way. Slow down, lunatic.
But New York’s cycling momentum looks unstoppable. The city is finally closing in on a bike sharing program, in which people will be able to rent bikes for a small fee at a kiosk and return it at another kiosk at their destination. This is long overdue. It’s a little embarrassing New York doesn’t already have it. Washington, D.C. beat us.

Think bike sharing has nothing for you? You know the traffic nightmare of getting across town at 4:30 p.m.? Can’t get a cab; subway doesn’t go there; it’s too far to walk. Imagine paying a couple bucks to hop on a bike, and pedal safely through the gridlock to get there in five minutes.

Naturally, there are cries that bike sharing will cause chaos, that ghastly kiosks will clutter the sidewalks, that it’s another example of urban planning gone amok.

Right, of course! Paris installed bike sharing a few years ago, and now look at it. It’s completely ruined; nobody goes to Paris anymore.

The revival of urban cycling in this country follows a fairly predictable pattern: nervousness and ridicule, followed by the realization that the truth never matches the fear-mongering. The supposed choice between bikes and everyone else is a bogus choice. More bikes in a city doesn’t merely benefit riders; it reduces congestion, saves money, improves quality of life, elevates the experience. No one returns from a city and says, “Oh, it was great—except for all the biking.”

The biggest mischaracterization about the infamous New York Cycling War is that there’s a war at all.
Look all around you. The bikes have won, and it’s not a terrible thing.